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Mental-health campaign for South Asian community launches



A Calgary non-profit has launched a new campaign to address the growing need for mental-health support for those in the South Asian community.


“The South Asian community is suffering in silence and it’s harming our community,” said Nina Saini, executive director of Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS).


“We really need to increase conversations in order for people to be honest about how they are really.”


PCHS put out a new video on Tuesday called “How Are You Really?” to do just that.


The goals are to start an open conversation and to decrease the stigma around getting mental-health support, especially in the South Asian community, where mental-health issues can be seen as taboo.


Dr. Gaganjot Sandhu is a family physician in the heart of Calgary’s South Asian community.


“Indian communities have a strong sense of community and often we turn to each other for help and support,” she said.


“Western support systems might make them feel alienated and might not address their concerns from a lens that they’re used to, from a cultural lens. So, having that representation really matters.”


Sandhu says that’s why she often refers her clients to PCHS, where counsellors are all South Asian and can speak various languages including Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu and English.


Tania Bhullar is a mental-health counsellor at PCHS and says as soon as she speaks the person’s language, they instantly feel more comfortable.


“They’re able to open up about their lives and they trust you because you understand what it feels like. I’m an immigrant myself so, I know the challenges,” she said.


The non-profit offers one-on-one counselling in the areas of mental health, addiction, family enhancement and family violence.


Almost all the counselling is free.


Saini says PCHS has seen an increase in demand since 2020, but hopes to reach even more people with this campaign.


“One out of 10 Calgarians are South Asian, so we know as the population increases, the demand increases, and as we work towards more preventative options, we know there’ll be more people seeking support,” she said.


The video will be followed up by mental-health initiatives and workshops throughout the year to further the conversation.


PCHS received $20,000 through the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund for the campaign. 



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